Saturday, December 13, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different...

Those of you who know the reference in the title can laugh at the title. Those who don't can laugh at me.

The point of the following blog is not to give you answers to any questions. I want your help with questions that haunt and confuse me. Bob Dylan is kind of just a foil.

The latest issue of CT has a couple interesting articles in it that would make good blog posts, especially for Nate (about giving, Africa, AIDS, small gospel, and humility). But one short little blurb has me curious and interested and thinking about important things. This blurb is about Bob Dylan. If you don't like him or his music don't turn me off yet. I'm not going to go on about why I like him or his music. Even if you can't stand the man, I think that the following may be interesting, thought provoking, and informative.

Some really fast background for the ignorant...

Bob Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman or Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham) is well known for his many reinventions of himself and his music. He began as a folk/blues guitar/harmonica player in the clubs of NY and released his first album in 1962. He reinvented himself as a folk-rock singer, and then made enemies of his former fans as he shifted to electric guitar (he even had angry fans try and attack him on stage and one grab an axe to destroy his sound system). He then kind of shifted back to folk rock, then released a country album, and then shifted to pop-rock. Then, in 1979, came the period most important to what I want to talk about. He became a born-again Christian, and a passionate one at that. He used to try and convert his team, his producers and his fans. He released three Evangelical albums, prayed with his band and crew before every concert, and began to talk about Jesus as Lord. Over the years, his faith became more quiet. His next couple albums had Christian and secular songs until there was no more sign of Christianity in his albums. He had one song in one album that some thought was a "reaffirmation of his faith" but there was nothing explicit or obvious. His musical style shifted back to his original folk/blues. As for his religious beliefs many have speculated that he has returned to Judaism, where he started. He has shown up a couple of Jewish services at Synagogues over the years but does not regularly attend anywhere. Others think he is no longer religious at all. In reality, it seems, no one really knows except for Bob Dylan. His religious journey began as a Jew, then to atheism, then to evangelical Christian, and now what?
In 1997 he said this:
"Here's the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don't find it anywhere else. Songs like "Let Me Rest on a Peaceful Mountain" or "I Saw the Light"—that's my religion. I don't adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I've learned more from the songs than I've learned from any of this kind of entity. The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs."

Bob Dylan was always vague in interviews. Now he really doesn't give any. This quote is about the best we have to go on for the last 20 years. What Dylan really believes and subscribes to does not seem to be the same Christianity than I subscribe to, but whether he has any faith or trust in Jesus Christ left? Who knows for sure?

Okay so the CT article and how it got me thinking...
So the CT article was just a little blurb in reaction to a new documentary on Dylan's 'Jesus Years'. It criticizes the documentary for treating Dylan's 'Jesus Years' as a mere "phase in his artistic development." The article holds out hope that Dylan's faith may still be there, subtle and below the surface.

Just reading and thinking about Dylan and his conversion, whether real or not, has brought several important questions about the Christian Life.

1) If Dylan is not a Christian, is he 'no longer a Christian', never a Christian, an apostate beyond hope of redemption, or someone who never really understood the gospel and may still yet receive Christ? Isn't it strange how some people who seem very passionate about their faith, whose faith we would never doubt, lose that passion and their faith? If they were never saved where did that passion come from? How do we know any passion we or anyone else ever has is real? Do these people know that they are not saved or do they think that they are? If he is no longer saved, then how do we define a Christian? Or the elect? Are the elect merely those who persevere? Or is there something noticeably different about them from the outset that distinguishes from those who will not endure? If Dylan's conversion was insincere, do any of you have reasons that Dylan embraced Christianity insincerely? He lost most of his fan base for ten years. He did not gain money. He became more obscure for the decade. Was he merely a confused individual who needed a crutch and found it temporarily in 'Jesus'?

2) If he is still a Christian, how far afield can someone go and remain a believer? Can they lose all outward evidence and still remain a believer as they go through deep struggle and difficulty internally? Can one abandon his faith and remain 'Saved'? Can someone just be a Christian privately? Is it possible that he just quit being public about his faith? Can a real Christian leave everyone in the dark about his faith?

Obviously we cannot definitively or definitely answer questions regarding Bob Dylan's sincerity or present condition. I hope, but very strongly doubt, that his faith in Christ remains. If nothing else thinking about this really scares me. I have known others whose faith seemed obvious before it disappeared when the slightest test approached like snow melts before the sun. How can I know whether my or another's faith is real, fake, or temporary? Are the 'goats' among us aware that they are goats? I don;t think they (hopefully not we) are. Is it possible that someday my or your passion will fade and we will just be Christians internally, with no outward sign or word?

Tell me what you think about these thoughts and questions. Tell me what you think about Bob Dylan. Tell me if this blog post was a waste of time.

Again, I'm looking for help. I'm not seeking to give you answers.

Sources: Wikipedia, Christianity Today (Dec 2008)


Nate said...

I think I'm in the position where I can laugh at both the title and the person who wrote it. Both are laughable, anyway. I say that with all Christian love to one who, at least for now appears to be a thoughts on existentialism, assurannce, and perseverance will be posted later...once I decide what they are. Hmmm. We may be waiting awhile.

VentiAmericano said...

Tough, isn't it? We only know our own hearts and minds (though God knows them more). It become difficult to discern where a person is in their faith, especially when we see them evangelizing, praying, and serving God. How couldn't that person be saved from their sins?
I would say that there are several who express outwardly things of the faith, but are not saved (Jesus touches on that in Matthew 7, near the end of the Sermon), and there are some who display very little but are righteous in God's sight (Lot- see the contrast between the Genesis account and the one in 2(?) Peter.
I am glad that I cannot know another's heart, because then my questions might be answered. We are shared to proclaim Christ to every man (notice! not just to unbelievers) by warning and teaching "with all wisdom" (Col. 1:28-29). This is instructive for me. I may not know, but that's okay- the calling remains the same.
On a somewhat unrelated note, I do not think that Matthew 7:6 (the "do not throw your pearls before swine" verse) is saying that we should not share the gospel with certain people. In other words, there is no reason why we should write people off.
Thanks for bringing up a difficult issue.

Anonymous said...

matt, you should talk to ken abt these issues. he has a very intersting take on 'losing' your salvation.

faithbornfromdoubt said...


I'm fairly strongly Calvinistic in my theology but I have a hard time reconciling my theology with my and others' experience at times. Definition is hard too. I can give pat answers to every question I asked, but do they work and do I really, in my soul, believe them? That doesn't mean I won't talk to Ken, but I think I have an idea of what he'll say. He won't be big on my theological answers :-)

How do we reconcile experience and theology? It's hard

China Dayz said...


You have a well thought out and nicely written article. It was a fun read. Nevertheless, it leaves me a little worried.

It sounds like you are trying to put personal experiences on some level close to where the Scriptures stand.

Knowing you, I'm pretty sure you are not even close to that position. We both know that simply because Bob Dylan (or anyone else) once displayed an outward sign of Christianity and then at some point digressed back to his former outward self, should not make one question the truths found in the Bible.

Was Dylan ever saved? Why did God chose to use an ass to get out his message (Baalim's -- not Dylan)? God knows! Since we don't, and the only definitive answers come from God's Word, I'd ask you answer the following questions:

1. According to the Bible, what
saves a person?
2. According to the Bible, what
keeps a person saved?
3. What does it mean to be sealed
by the Holy Spirit of
4. What does Romans have to say
about a person's life after he
is saved?
5. Was Judas (a man who outwardly
must have displayed some
measure of faith) a true
believer? I assume he gave up
a lot to follow Jesus for
three years.
6. What about the Pope or mother
7. Why is it written, "They went
out from us because they were
not of us (1 John 2:19)?"
8. What did Paul mean when he
rebuked the Galatians in
chapter 3 for thinking that
they needed to do something to
keep their salvation?

I'm sure there are more and better questions, but this is a start.

If we place experience anywhere remotely close to the truth of the Bible, we make a serious error. I trust you have not done this. After all Jeremiah 17:9 says, "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?"

There is absolute truth and it is found in the Bible.

gmarie said...

Ah, someone who doesn't have it all figured out..better yet- a seeker. I'm sticking my nose right in and I'm going to take a stab at some of your compelling questions...
Dylan kinda impacted my early life like many other artists with the exception of being folk with engaging lyrics.
Scripture says in 1Cor. 13:12- "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known."I can tell, We're both squinting here" ha..
I had a deep crisis- hold that thought..back in 1980, and it was then I entered another spiritual realm-Christ's Holy Spirit came in. Now, I'd gone to a Maria Muldar concert at an old theater in Kealakekua Kona Hi. right around that time. From what I understand, her daughter nearly died in an accident (correct me if I'm wrong) and she had some kind of transformation...she considered herself a born again believer. Fact is, she had a little scout outside who happen to approach me-(amazing)to ask what I thought of her new conversion? I of course briefly shared my new found faith. She wouldn't even sing her famous song "Don't you make me high" don't ya feel my leg..cause if you feel my leg, you'll wanna feel my thigh..." Ha- but, I saw her a few years ago- a great blues performer) but not a mention of this early yet profound experience back There are a slew of them.. Jane Fonda? Some questions you they know, or think they are...our passion and those who seemed to of lost it? Ok, how about those folks who've embraced the prosperity gospel?...I'd seen them throughtout my early Christian walk. I can tell you that's something else. Then, the crisis comes? What does scripture say to that? The parable of the sower comes to mind. Back then I watched the name-it-an-claim-it crowd, which sort of went hand in hand; now I personally think this goes much deeper..time doesn't allow me. But, the crisis? What are they accepting? Jesus is a suffering Christ...maybe they really wouldn't want that...if they knew?

gmarie said...

You don't have to post this.." meant to hit preview but somehow after doing the word verification it was posted. I thought I should of made it shorter..sorry it was long.gmarie-

About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States
"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." Fyodor Dostoevsky. I'm a Northwest Baptist Seminary graduate (MDiv) and current student (ThM). I plan on someday going to Africa and teach Bible and Theology at a Bible College or Seminary level. I hope to continue my studies and earn a PhD, either after I go to overseas for a few years or before. I'm a theological conservative, but I like to think outside of the box and challenge conventional thinking and consider myself a free thinker. I am currently serving in my fourth year as a Youth Pastor at Prairie Baptist Fellowship in Yelm Washington. My blogs will reflect my thoughts on both seminary and ministry life, though not (of course) exclusively. I enjoy literature and occasionally try my hand at writing stories and poems. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Paul